Friday, December 05, 2008

Shehu Musa (1935-2008)

Alhaji Shehu Ahmadu Musa who died in London two weeks ago was, indeed, a remarkable person. For a larger part of the 73 years he spent on earth, the late Makama Nupe brought refinement to the public service and politics in this country.
The highest office he occupied was Secretary to the Federal Government, a position that he occupied because of his personal strengths, competence and credentials. At the commencement of the Second Republic in 1979, 13 years after the military intervention that truncated the First Republic, former President Shehu Shagari needed someone who would be the engine room of his government whose functionality was being threatened. Someone who commanded the respect of both the civil service and the political class. And he had no difficulty in picking Alhaji Musa who was at that point Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Finance.
Shagari's tribute captures the essence of his ex-scribe. His words:" Musa was a man of courteus but authoritative bearing. Shehu Musa was clever, impressively efficient and widely respected by his colleagues. I felt that our new democratic vogage needed as the first SGF someone who needed his way around the federal bureaucracy, how it worked and didn't work. Moreover, as a non-party man, he would not be seen as a rival by ministers or special advisers. As the SGF, Shehu Musa was the single most powerful official in the Federal government."
The fact that he was re-appointed during the short-lived second term of that administration attests to the quality of service and dedication he had put into his onerous assignment. To further validate his sincerity and honour, as the coupists, led by General Muhammadu Buhari, were arresting and detaining top office holders at the time, the 1960 mathematics and physics graduate of the University of Ibadan was left untouched.
It was, therefore, not surprising that the government of General Ibrahim Babangida later appointed him as Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), a post he held until 1992. The late Musa promised that he would count every Nigerian. Although he obviously did not, his commission was able to bequethe to the nation, a reliable head-count. The NPC job provided him the platform to tour the country and appreciate its diverse problems and potentialities. That exercise probably motivated him soon afterwards to seek a presidential berth through the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC).
Although that effort failed, his role as a national player was not eclipsed, as he emerged in 1998 as a National Commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that superintended the Fourth Republic. In that capacity, Musa served as a source of experience and wisdom to the Justice Ephraim Akpata-led Commission.
No doubt, this holder of Masters of Science in Public Administration from the University of Minnesota, USA, Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON), International Mercury Award, many chieftancy titles, several honorary doctorate degrees and other laurels has left his stamp on the soul of the land he has worked tirelessly for.
From a humble background in Bida, Niger State, "Mr. Census" did give an enviable account of himself. He can now take his rightful place among Nigeria's past worthy sons and daughters.